I am sometimes asked what it takes to be a shaman, and can anyone become a shaman. Because I am asked these questions so often I thought that i would address both of them this morning. Second question first. Yes, I think that anyone can become a shaman. I a highly educated, left-brained logical guy who spends his days with numbers, statistics, and computer programs. If I can do it then anyone can!
The answer to the second question is a little bit longer and I don't know if I'll get to all of the answer to that question in this blog, but I'll at least get started.
I grew up with a nuclear physicist. My father earned his Ph. D. in physics when nuclear physics was a new and exciting field. I can still remember going to the lab at Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago (security in the late 1950s wasn't what it is today). He was sending particles through cloud chambers and through a strong magnetic field, and then measuring how the particle traces in the cloud chamber changed . . . trying to discover what an Alpha particle was. What you ask, does that have to do with shamanism. Well, I grew up in a family where something was only real if it could me measured and observed. An alpha particle leaving a trace through a cloud in a cloud chamber was real because it could be measured and observed. Spirit, on the other hand, couldn't be seen, measured or observed so it fell into the realm of fantasy and fairy tales, and my father didn't believe in fairy tales and so neither did I.
That changed when I moved to Bolivia in 1971, my first trip there. I ran a literacy project to teach Bolivians to read, to read Spanish. I was working with Quechua-speaking adults who spoke Spanish as a second language and didn't read Spanish. I had been in Potosí (13,300 feet above sea level) for about nine months when one Saturday, on a whim, I decided to visit the village of Betanzos, about 30 clicks from Potosí. I hitched a ride on a truck, got off in the center of the village and walked in to a small cafe for lunch. Four men, local campesinos from their look, walked over, greeted me and asked if they could sit down. After pleasantries they told me that they knew that I was coming. Their village curandero healer/shaman told them that I would be there with golden hair and instructed them to go and meet me. He told them that I would teach them how to read the printed words. At that point all they knew about me was that I was a blond haired guy who spoke pretty good Spanish but with an obvious accent, and that I was hungry. By the way, they had walked to Betanzos from their little village about 5 clicks outside of Betanzos.
That experience, my friends, was very unsettling to someone who had been taught to only believe in what could be measured and observed. I had only decided that morning to visit Betanzos and hadn't told anyone where I was going (I know, stupid). They obviously left their village before I arrived in Betanzos because they were their waiting for me. This really upset my view of the world.
So, what does it take to be a shaman or a shamanic practitioner? Well first, you have to think like John Lennon. He wrote, "I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dragons and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?"
That one WFT experience in Betanzos was all it took to change my world view and to help me realize that there is much to the universe than what I can see, explain, measure, or observe. The world is much, much more exciting and filled with a lot more than you or I can see with our 3-D eyes. So the first step, if you want to learn shamanism is to open yourself up to the possibility that you can become one, and open yourself up to the possibility that there are other worlds that are real and which you can visit.
Until next time enjoy the journey,
It has been a rather crazy month. My wife has been overseas caring for her mother and so I have been Dad and Mr. Mom to three teen-aged boys for the past month. This sort of put a cramp on my writing but she is back, and so am I.
The theme for the last few blogs has been about being a contemporary shaman. One of the activities I put on the list was facilitating connection with power animals and guiding spirits so that's sort of the theme for this blog post.
I don't know about you, but I dislike the idea of spiritual intermediaries, "special" people who stand between humanity (you and me) and the divine. These highly educated and "spiritual" individuals assume that they are specially qualified and called to act for the divine on earth because we don't have the needed qualifications to interact directly with the divine on our own behalf. I have several problems with this model. First of all, if the divine cares about us, and I'm sure that It does, then It doesn't need someone to translate its messages to us. Being divine it is sufficient wise and powerful to communicate directly with us . . . we just need to be tuned in and listening.
In the same manner, the divine doesn't need an especially trained communicator to transform our thoughts, needs, desires, wishes, or prayers if you will, into a form that is understandable by the divine. I'm sure that the divine is more powerful, wiser, and a lot smarter than I can even imagine. Consequently I expect that the divine has taken my thoughts, needs, desires, wishes, or prayers into account even before I am able to articulate them. No intermediary is necessary.
Third, the divine doesn't need special rites and ceremonies to function . . . remember its much wiser and more powerful than we are. Rites and ceremonies are for those of us here that, for some reason, either need them or find them useful allegories and we learn from them. All of us are capable of developing our own meaningful rites and ceremonies. If fact, if we put our hearts into their development then they will touch us more deeply than a ceremony performed by someone who has memorized a script. My one consistent, day-after-day ceremony is my morning invocation and even it changes from day-to-day. I have written about it before.
Shamanic journeying to meet and communicate with our power animals and spirit guides is something that you can do for yourself. It's your way, and maybe not the only way, that you are able to interact with other energies. I might be able to journey for you to find out who your power animal is, or ask for a message for you from one of your spirit guides, but I won't do it. Your communication with the divine and with other energies should be your communication. What I will do is teach you how to take shamanic journeys so that you can meet and communicate with them for yourself on your own. That's the way that it should be. No spiritual practice should disempower you.
If you have never taken a shamanic journey and would like to read more about it then here are a few of my previous posts about journeying:
Hope to meet you soon sitting under a tree in the lower world on a shamanic journey. Use the contact me form if you have any questions about shamanic journeys.
PS: About the title. The Smothers Brothers had a comedy act back in the 1960 and in one of their skits Tommy Smothers didn't understand why someone would talk to the trees. I talk to the trees and they do answer back . . . try it. Just so you know, The Smothers Brothers were awarded the George Carlin Freedom of Expression Award from the Video Software Dealers’ Association in 2003.
I'm Dr. Dave, an eclectic shaman. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice eclectic shamanism.